How to choose a pattern for your variegated yarn

how to choose a pattern for variegated yarn

This is the third part of the series about hand dyed yarns. If you haven’t read the previous posts yet, you’ll want to check out the: General overview of hand dyed yarns and Semisolid yarns. You’ll get a good visual idea of how different kinds of hand-dyed yarns can create lovely effects to your knitwear.

Photo Credit:  bucilla

Photo Credit: bucilla

Variegated yarns are irresistible when you see them in skeins. Colours show beautifully as they transition from one shade to the next. They’re almost impossible to resist. The only problem is that we don’t always consider how the colours will look when knitted: most often they will give off a totally different look.

While it’s fun to see the yarn change from one colour to the next, the end product can make them look choppy and messy. Usually, we want our piece to have a beautiful blend of colours in the same way that it looks on the skein.

The same yarn in skein....

The same yarn in skein....

... and in cake

... and in cake

If the colour changes are very short, they’ll break up most patterns – this is not necessarily a problem but something you need to take into consideration when choosing the pattern.


  • Lace patterns

  • Cabled patterns

  • Larger scale textured patterns


  • Stripes with a solid color (like in the striped part of the body in the Victoria Sweater)

  • Simple textured patterns, e.g. seed stitch 

Project by  bszilva

Project by bszilva

  • simple mesh patterns

Notice how this shawl is full of holes where the holes do not form a lace pattern. This is actually a solid yarn, but this would look great with a busier variegated colourway too.


When knitting a piece with an even (uniform) width and the colours of the yarn follow each other rhythmically, the same colours will keep meeting, resulting in a pooling effect. Sometimes this effect can be absolutely beautiful, but, to be honest most of the time it is unappealing. Colours can look blotchy, especially if the yarn has a wide color palate. It’s much more attractive if colors blend together like they do on the skein.

Photo Credit:  odibaby

Photo Credit: odibaby

If the width is uneven – in a dress or a sweatshirt, for example – the colours will shift into one direction. In this tunic you can see exactly where the number of stitches increased/decreased.

How to choose a pattern for your variegated yarn - pooling

Have you ever knitted with yarn like this? What’s your experience? I would love to see both  good and bad knitting projects that you’ve tried.


Happy knitting